UpFront: Nettles, Ramirez offer incoming Gov. Evers advice on Wisconsin economy

Cory Nettles, a former Commerce secretary who is now with Milwaukee-based Generation Growth Capital, is offering Gov.-elect Tony Evers some simple advice on Wisconsin’s economy: Don’t screw it up.

Appearing alongside Nettles on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” Austin Ramirez, of Waukesha-bashed HUSCO International, is also urging the incoming guv to focus on areas of agreement with Republicans on the economy.

He said on the show, produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com, that he hopes manufacturing is one of those areas. He also warned about meddling too much with Foxconn as the Taiwanese manufacturer continues to build a plant in southeastern Wisconsin after landing a $3 billion state incentive package.

“We don’t have a lot of leverage over them in terms of them being really committed deeply to Wisconsin,” Ramirez said. HUSCO is a global manufacturer and engineering company.

Nettles, whose firm invests in smaller companies in the upper Midwest, said there was “a lot of noise” in the Dem guv primary about Foxconn, but Evers was “among the most temperate in his comments.” He encouraged Evers to “put a bear hug around our friends at Foxconn” and say he will support the contract. But Nettles added if Evers can find ways to improve on the contract, he should explore those options.

He also encouraged Evers to “punt” on his push to dissolve the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Nettles ran WEDC’s predecessor, the Department of Commerce, under Dem Gov. Jim Doyle and said he’s “agnostic” about the structure of the state’s economic development agency.

Nettles said Evers shouldn’t get “bogged” down in the structure, calling it “deck chairs.”

At the same time, Nettles said he was concerned about “the foolishness” from the GOP-controlled Legislature of stripping Evers of the power to appoint the WEDC leader until Sept. 1.

“I’m hoping both sides can rise above that kind of foolishness,” Nettles said.

Also on the show, new AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale said organized labor’s agenda under Evers includes increasing the minimum wage and reversing many of the policies of outgoing Gov. Scott Walker. She said that includes overturning right-to-work, the repeal of prevailing wage laws and Act 10, which stripped most public employees of the power to collectively bargain, among other things.

Still, she said organized labor understands the dynamic in the state Capitol in the next session of Republicans continuing to control both houses of the Legislature. But she hoped with Walker gone, Republican leaders “will get their heads on straight and do the right thing for working people.”

Bloomingdale, who serves on Evers’ Next Generation Workforce and Economic Development Policy Advisory Council, said labor is excited about the new administration. She accused Walker of cozying up to the Koch brothers and doing the bidding of the wealthy.

“Tony Evers is the opposite,” Bloomingdale said. “Tony Evers believes in working people really being the engine of our economy.”